The playoff picture is coming into focus, and by the end of Tuesday night we may have a better picture. Or, we may not. But we’ll know a few more things about how the picture will clear up. Trust me, that makes sense.
Here are the games that matter Tuesday night.
Phoenix at Utah: This is for the eighth seed in the West. And the right to get steamrolled by the Spurs. But still, you get your ticket punched for the dance. If Utah wins this game they are in. If Phoenix wins the two teams are tied but the Suns will have the tiebreaker — their magic number will be one and either they will have to beat the Spurs Wednesday or they need the Trail Blazers to beat the Jazz on Thursday.
Phoenix has won both meetings this season, but the Jazz are a much better home than road team. Steve Nash owned the Jazz on the pick-and-roll last meeting, the Jazz need to not let him control and dictate the flow.
Clippers at Hawks: Both teams need this win. For the visiting Clippers, if they win they are at least the four seed — which gives them home court in what would be the best first round series in either conference against the Grizzlies. A Clippers win also keeps their chances of getting the three seed and avoiding Memphis all together alive — they would need to beat the Knicks Wednesday and have the Lakers lose to the Kings Thursday. Not likely, but a win keeps that door open.
The Hawks are playing the Celtics in the first round, that is set. Right now the Hawks have a one-game lead for home court in that series (it doesn’t matter that the Celtics are the higher seed for wining their division) but the Celtics have the tiebreaker. A win doesn’t lock the Hawks into home court, but it could if Boston were to lose.
Heat at Celtics: I feel sorry for whoever paid good money for this game, because both teams will be resting a lot of key players — LeBron James, Ray Allen and the list will grow by gametime. This game means nothing to the Heat. For Boston it’s about home court. As mentioned above the Hawks and Celtics will play in the first round, right now the Hawks are one game up and would have home court. Boston has the tiebreak so if they win out they force the Hawks to win out to keep home court.
However, Doc Rivers has already said health matters more than home court. So expect to see your favorite Celtics reserves get big minutes.
The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.
Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.
He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.
“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”
All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.
New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.
JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.
He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.
But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.
I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.
At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.
But not right now. He remains silent.
This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.
In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.
Rudy Gay expressed displeasure with how the Kings were handling trade rumors. Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac retorted that Gay had his phone number.
Apparently, Gay found it.
Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:
Following those comments, Gay told ABC10 on Thursday afternoon that he had since spoken with Divac.
“I have talked to Vlade,” Gay said from his Nike Skills Academy at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin. “I can’t say since Monday stuff has changed, but I just feel like we have a little bit of time to start changing things.”
Gay, who will be entering his 11th NBA season, has insisted he hasn’t demanded a trade and should he remain a member of the Kings by the time training camp opens in October, he says he’ll report and be ready to go.
“At this point in my career I just want to be happy,” said Gay. “I talked to Vlade and we’re trying to make that happen.”
Even if he hasn’t demanded a trade, it sure sounds like Gay would welcome one. I doubt the Kings would mind moving on, either.
But it takes another team to trade for Gay, and so far, one hasn’t emerged.
In the meantime, tensions appear to be eased. Open communication usually helps.